Pros: great setup, good acting by Lane, nice atmosphere
Cons: ending ruins everything
Untraceable explores the modern-day serial killer, a dastardly mix of the genius of Jigsaw from Saw, with the smart pacing and characterization found in Silence of the Lambs. Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is a perfect counterpart to Clarice Starling, the tough-as-nails female investigator thats becoming the staple prototype for leads in these sorts of movies.
Even though Untraceable follows the formula of the serial killer movie with its stereotypical casting, with Agent Marsh accompanied by nerdy co-worker Agent Griffith Dowe (Colin Hanks) and later on the mysterious Dectective Eric Box (Billy Burke) for some sexual tension that never really goes anywhere, it does it well enough that it isnt just another clone. The plot is your standard fare serial killer motif, with the uncatchable killer playing a great cat and mouse game, escalating his public executions with raging intensity. One particular thing to note though is that Untraceable manages to not cross the line into splatterhouse with excessive gore like Saw did and retains its crime thriller pacing throughout.
Untraceables unique spin on the serial killer tale is that this modern day killer uses the Internet to destroy his victims. Silly as it might sound, the concept is executed well. The killer sets up devious contraptions much the way Jigsaw did in Saw, and as internet goers flock to the KillWithMe website hes set up, the victim gradually gets closer to death. While the technology in the film isnt quite believable, the idea of a killer using viral Internet live-video as a way of killing his victims is an interesting idea.
That said, Untraceable almost found its way into my favorite serial killer movie list until it reached the ending, where all the intrigue and all the great tension set up by TV director Gregory Hoblit (Fracture)came all crashing down in the final instances.
For serial killer movies, the key is to setup characters that are intriguing enough, and then play off an intense cat and mouse type of chase, with the killer flaunting himself in front of the cops by showing them just how much he can get away with. Now Hannibal was in part one of the most awesome killers because we didnt know too much about why he did what he did or what possessed him to do it. You can hint at his motives, but never revealing all of them is what made him creepy and sinister. Well the problem with Untraceable is that, in a few minutes, Agent Marsh cracks the case open from a complete elusive mystery to absolute transparency utilizing only a few clues. She reasons out his entire motive, down to all the past events that have driven him to what he does, which completely destroys all of the suspense the movie had been building up to that point.
Then the movie closes on an incredibly abrupt point, leaving you with no resolution, as if the writers had decided to quit before writing the ending. It leaves no wiggle-room at all, you dont get to see the progression of Agent Marsh past the events, the killers final moments are left to deafening silence and rather than accomplishing the kind of dramatic finish I think that Hoblit was searching for, the lack of ending looks just plain sloppy, as if he had directed himself into a dead end he could not escape.
Untraceable as Ive mentioned before is a great piece of work in the first half, and I thought the story was compelling enough to become a classic serial killer movie. However, the sloppy ending really does hurt the film greatly, and despite the decent performance by Diane Lane, who has not seen too many great roles, the ending really has given her nothing to finish on. The tension between characters, her daughter, her mother and Detective Box never really seem to find any purpose, and it makes the movie unusually hollow. While it might be fun to watch this film for starts, the lack of closure brings it all the way back down to mediocrity.